By Katherine Long | Editor

The Diocesan Pastoral Council met for its first session of 2016 March 12, discussing resources and activities for the Year of Mercy, hearing testimonies from attendees of the World Meeting of Families and the March for Life, and getting an early look at this year’s HOPE Appeal campaign.

Year of Mercy

Diocesan Communications and Social Media Specialist Nicole Ossevoort highlighted resources for and events celebrating the jubilee Year of Mercy.

A complete list of diocesan jubilee events is available at Parishes are also encouraged to submit their local activities to the diocesan events calendar.

An extensive list of jubilee resources, including educational materials, bulletin inserts, and information about making a pilgrimage to the diocesan Holy Door at the Cathedral, is also available at

To access any of these jubilee materials, click on the Year of Mercy graphic on the homepage, or on the Year of Mercy tab at the top of any page. To submit an event to the diocesan calendar, click on “submit an event” on the homepage and follow the prompts.

Going the ‘Extra Mile’

Mary Hallman, director of the Office of Evangelization, and Jeff Dixe, coordinator of the Extra Mile, spoke about the genesis and evolution of this evangelization program. Originated by Father Jamie Schultz at Sacred Heart Parish in Cicero and now expanding into other parishes, ministries and groups, the Extra Mile is a program that “extends the footprint of faith.” Participants pledge to complete an action that spreads the Gospel message and serves others — beyond what they may already be doing — for a certain period of time.

One of the program’s great strengths is its inclusiveness and adaptability. “It provides a consistent theme that the entire parish can do. Everybody can do the Extra Mile,” Dixe said. “How you choose to go the extra mile is completely up to you. That’s the beautiful thing.”

Amanda Hopkins, principal of St. Margaret’s School in Mattydale, shared her school’s experience with the Extra Mile program. St. Margaret’s students inscribed paper footprints with examples of how they had gone the extra mile in their lives. Then, during the diocesan-wide day of service during Catholic Schools Week, St. Margaret’s and Bishop Grimes students partnered to stock the St. Margaret’s parish pantry with donations of hygiene products, paper goods and toiletries. “This was a marvelous project that you can adapt to meet the needs of your program — and I hope you do it,” Hopkins said.

Those interested in bringing the Extra Mile to their parish, school or organization should contact Dixe at for an implementation guide and materials.

HOPE Appeal

Before introducing the 2016 diocesan HOPE Appeal campaign video, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham offered words of thanks for the success of the 2015 campaign. More than 26,000 donors shared their gifts last year, making the 37th HOPE Appeal the most successful to date, with $4.93 million donated, he noted.

The annual appeal supports programs and services across the diocese. Generous donors “helped fund programs to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, assist families with a Catholic education for their children, bring comfort to the sick and homebound. A significant part of their gifts were returned to parishes to support food pantries, youth programs and senior services,” Bishop Cunningham said.

The 2016 campaign, “We are all called to be merciful,” officially begins in April. This year’s materials, including the video shown at the meeting, highlight just some of the many ways HOPE Appeal-funded ministries from Binghamton to Rome extend the Works of Mercy by educating students, comforting the sick, feeding the hungry and ministering to those who are imprisoned.

World Meeting of Families

Joe Denkenberger and Jen Bryz-Gornia offered a look back at their experience during the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit in Philadelphia this past September. Parishioners of St. James in Syracuse, the couple, along with their two sons, was selected to attend the meeting through a contest sponsored by the diocese.

The couple provided highlights and personal takeaways from the meeting’s many speakers, including Bishop Robert Barron, Professor Helen Alvare, Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Pastor Rick Warren.

   One session that spoke especially to both Jen and Joe was “The Sacred Balancing Act: Busy Lives and Family Spirituality,” presented by Kathy Hendricks; Sister Patricia M. McCormack, IHM; Damon Owens; and Matthew Pinto. Joe said both he and Jen felt particularly drawn to the session because they both feel so busy all the time, “like our worlds are spinning and spinning and spinning and we hardly take time to just enjoy our family.” One speaker at the session noted that “we succeed at times, but we fail regularly, and that’s okay,” Joe said. That means, despite never-ending to-do lists and inevitable mistakes, “that’s okay. As long as you’re trying, that’s the important thing, if you’re trying together as a family to make everything work.”

Jen and Joe also offered a challenge to those assembled: What can you do to strengthen and support our parish families? With two small boys and another child on the way in April, the Denkenbergers have a firsthand perspective on being a young family in a parish. Among their suggestions were offering a meal ministry for families welcoming a new baby, providing childcare or children’s liturgy during Mass, connecting families with children of similar ages, or just simply stopping by a family’s home for a quick hello.

Comments from Bishop

Bishop Cunningham answered a variety of questions submitted by DPC members, ranging from an inquiry about the length of the diaconate program to how CYO programs can be supported.

He also offered his thoughts on assisted suicide, in advance of the New York State bishops’ March 15 visit to legislative leaders in Albany. Bishop Cunningham underlined that there is “no room in the teaching of the Church for assisted suicide.” “God has given us life and God will take it away,” he said.

March for Life

The meeting closed with remarks by Samantha Pare, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joseph the Worker in Liverpool, who was among the diocesan group that braved dire weather predictions (which proved accurate) to travel to and participate in the March for Life in Washington, DC, in January.

Active in the parish and its youth activities for many years, Pare had previously attended the March for Life as a youth participant. This year, she was recruited by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry to be a bus captain. Reluctant at first, Pare ultimately accepted. After going to Confession and praying before the Blessed Sacrament prior to departure, “a weight had been lifted, and I knew God would be with me along the way,” she said.

Pare reminded the students that the pilgrimage to the March was an opportunity to encounter Christ and to grow in relationship with him. Unafraid of the impending storm, the students marched. “They were courageous witnesses to the pro-life movement and their faith,” she said.

The students’ testimonies on the bus ride home were nothing short of amazing, Pare said. “We had accomplished what we had set out to do — and that was to give them the opportunity to encounter Christ.”

“All of us are on a journey,” Pare said. “We all have the opportunity to encounter Christ in our daily lives…. Let Christ into your life and everything else will fall into place. The daily struggle will become a journey of faith accompanied by your best friend. If we carry Christ in our hearts, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.”

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